Shayla Heavner’s students come to her via the world of the web, a path she too has traveled with dexterity.
A life adversity lured the Albuquerque native and Albuquerque Academy graduate to online education. It was her success online as a student that led her to become an online teacher. Today, her work as an educator is nationally recognized.
Heavner, an online math professor for Indiana University and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, was one of 10 teachers from across the country recently honored with a Sarah D. Barder Fellowship.
CTY is a nonprofit organization at Johns Hopkins that identifies academic talent, grades K-12, and supports them with a variety of programs, including online.
Health issues — she underwent brain surgery in 2009 — led Heavner to take classes online, first in 2015 at Central New Mexico Community College and later at Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. She will earn a master’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins this summer, also online.
“Because of my situation, online was my only real choice,” Heavner said in an email. “However, learning in the online environment has opened my eyes. Students now have the opportunity to connect with high-caliber institutions and some of the best educators right from their homes.”
This inspired her to become an online instructor.
“I think a lot of people still doubt online education,” said Heavner, 31, who lives in Albuquerque with her husband and four children. “They think it’s easier or less rigorous. But many institutions are now offering classes in this format, and it’s akin to what students would face in a physical classroom. In fact, it can be more beneficial because students need to take charge of their learning, work on time management, and become self-sufficient, which is often the ultimate goal.
For CTY, she teaches online geometry classes to gifted middle schoolers across the country. She was nominated for the scholarship by one of her students.
“I have students call me every day or we meet in the online classroom, which allows us to personalize their education to meet their unique learning goals,” she said.
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